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Dave Brisbin

One Sentence

Can you state your spiritual journey, the whole of your search for meaning, in just one sentence?

Br. Lawrence, a 17th century French monk, did just that: The presence of God is what the spiritual life is all about, and by practicing it, one becomes spiritual. Of course he was only channeling Jesus: Seek first the Kingdom, and all else is added. God is unity, oneness; kingdom is being one with God and all God has touched—being present to Presence.

Both sentences are one: practice presence, get it all.

Jesus loved one sentence, one-liners. Used them to describe what it meant to practice presence: unless we become little children we can’t enter kingdom; unless we exceed the righteousness of the law; unless we are born again, sell everything we own, lose our lives, deny ourselves, we can’t experience that pure connection. All these point at letting go of rational understanding in favor of something indefinable, uncontrollable—spirit experienced like wind, the meaning of spirituality itself invisibly breathing by.

I read an article by a long term care chaplain who over the years has sat with over five hundred people at the end of their lives. And what she learned was that “there are many instances when meaning has no truth or value or place in reality.” That a rational expression of meaning “breaks down precisely at the juncture of crisis and death.” That to simply listen, to “sit with the reality of the unknown…has plunged me into depths I cannot always fathom…caused me to see beyond words and action. There is, in truth, no separateness, for all is one, deeply and profoundly one, interdependent and grounded in oneness.”

Rational meaning breaks down, as all physical systems do, at the point of transcendence, just when we imagine we need it most. At the extremes of life, the junctures of crisis and death when meaning is most intense, it becomes inexpressible, invisible. We can assign words in retrospect, but at the moment we experience spiritual meaning, words are a distraction at best, an insult if spoken. All we can do is be present. Wordlessly present. Do that, get it all.

We can fit that in one sentence.


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